Last updated : 20 May 2007 By editor

…a poor cup final seems to be the general consensus.

The Times

'Chelsea won the first FA Cup final at the new Wembley yesterday, denying Manchester United the classic league and cup Double in a dramatic extra-time finish. Didier Drogba settled it with his 33rd goal of the season after 116 minutes.

'After an extended build-up that went on for four hours, the final was a major disappointment in terms of the quality of its football. The best two teams in the country they may be, but neither played up to their potential and as a spectacle it was one of the poorest finals in recent memory, rivalling Arsenal's tedious smash and grab at United's expense two years ago.

'Mourinho - who said he ran down the tunnel to phone his children, who could not be at Wembley - said his players deserved the cup and added: "The victory is for them and for the supporters."

'Ferguson felt fatigue was a key factor in his side's defeat. "There was nothing between the two teams - neither deserved to lose or win and it is disappointing we have lost," he said.'


'Nice stadium, shame about the game. Not that Chelsea will be the slightest bit bothered about the quality of a disappointing final after Didier Drogba crowned a superb personal season with his 33rd goal of it, just when it seemed the world's oldest competition would be decided on penalties for the third successive year. For that relief, much thanks.

'Both teams had limped to the starting line after their exertions in chasing at least three trophies, and it showed. Cristiano Ronaldo failed to live up to the billing by the nation's football writers and his peers as the outstanding footballer of the year; Wayne Rooney plugged away industriously, but overall defenders and the two goalkeepers, plus Drogba, could be proudest of their afternoon's work.

'Ferguson might be said to have played into their hands with his conservative team selection. He left Alan Smith fretting on the bench until extra-time, opting for a more solid look to the midfield by including Darren Fletcher, forcing Ronaldo to operate down the left, where he often seems less effective.

'The forceful Smith's absence and Ronaldo's lack of inspiration contributed to the dullness of the first 45 minutes, in which each midfield sat on the ball for long spells, merely passing it around among themselves and their defenders before Frank Lampard or Michael Carrick lost patience and hit a long English pass forward to an isolated attacker.

'Mourinho was assumed to be happy enough with the pattern of the game, which suited his side's more measured style, but he was the still the manager who elected to make a change at half-time. Arjen Robben came on to play down the left in place of the unlucky Cole, who had hardly been the worst performer on the pitch but was less than fully fit. There might even have been a demand for greater urgency in both dressing-rooms, for the second half began, thankfully, at much quicker pace.

'More than ever it came to look as if a single goal would be sufficient and extra-time arrived without one. Smith, belatedly, and Salomon Kalou added fresh legs as United adopted the formation they ought to have begun with. Just before the first period of extra-time ended, they claimed both a penalty and a goal as Giggs forced the ball over the line, just, from Rooney's cross, though he had clearly fouled Cech in the process.

'There could be no dispute about Drogba's goal, when he took Mikel's pass and played a sharp one-two with Lampard before toe-poking the ball past Van der Sar. It was his first against United, who had run out of goals at just the wrong time after running up 123 earlier in the season. The "wounded animal" that Ferguson had feared after taking Chelsea's title had shown sufficient guile and stamina to come back and haunt him.'


'The Premiership's two most accomplished teams have already slugged it out for the best part of nine months for one piece of silver. This final quest was like a microcosm of the title race: long, exhausting and with very little in it.

'Wembley yearned for a romantic homecoming, but the cast list promised more than it could deliver. The star names from England's most recent champions turned out to be a bit of a tease.

'After 116 minutes of uptight football, Chelsea delivered the FA Cup from the probability of being decided by its third consecutive penalty shootout. Didier Drogba, having lost out to Cristiano Ronaldo in the season's personal awards, despite an exceptional personal campaign, stole the glory with a typically brave example of the predator's arts. A shrewd one-two with Frank Lampard gave him a precious moment ahead of his marker Rio Ferdinand, and Drogba seized it to flick home his thirty-third successful strike of the season.

'On the touchline Jose Mourinho re-enacted the manic dash he first showed Sir Alex Ferguson when the pair crossed swords in a Champions League match at Old Trafford in 2004. How he needed this victory. In fact, how Chelsea needed this. This club obsessed with winning by any means possible has a domestic Cup double to compensate, in some way, for the loss of the two prizes they value the most.

'Mourinho's philosophy is for the means to justify the ends. 'As I said to the players at the beginning of the week, "Do you want to enjoy the game or do you want to enjoy after the game?'" That explains everything.'


'No dream final, just a dream finish, at least for the followers of Chelsea, who took 116 minutes to produce the one coherent piece of football that turned out to be all that was needed to deliver the 126th FA Cup on the day the old trophy finally returned to its spiritual Wembley home.

'After all the problems and spiralling costs of the new stadium, the only glitch on the day was the failure of the Red Arrows to deliver the promised fly-past just before kick-off. And though it would be cruel to say that the Red Devils also failed to turn up, the occasion fell way short of the all-action, hard-hat final that we had anticipated.

'Back in 1923, when Wembley staged its first FA Cup final, it needed just a single white horse to control the crowds. This grand re-opening required a massive security operation and a flying exclusion zone over north London, which the Red Arrows perhaps believed included them.

'The new Wembley was so long in the rebuilding that we were bombarded with a plethora of statistics about the number of toilets and restaurants and the number of beers that can be poured (and downed) every minute.

'We were hoping these facts would end up buried under an avalanche of exciting match statistics, glorious goals, imaginative build-up play and individual brilliance. It was not to be. Part of the blame lay with a pitch reminiscent of the stodgy surfaces at the old stadium, which prompted Giggs' surprising pre-match claim that he never much enjoyed playing there. We needed a downpour to freshen up the grass but the day stayed dry, much like the teams' powder until long into extra-time.

'Mourinho may be incapable of admitting his faults but one of his finer qualities is a decisiveness in correcting his selection errors. True to that nature, he courageously replaced Joe Cole with Arjen Robben at half-time to give his side a more cutting edge.

'Even then, Giggs continued to be the man most likely to provide the decisive moment, a great clunking fist of a tackle by Michael Essien denying him when clean through. Predictably, the pass again came from the elegant foot of Paul Scholes. The man whose career was under threat from a mysterious eye injury last season also showed that he still has 20-20 vision on a football pitch.

'Strange as it may seem, the season ended in disappointment for both clubs, given their vaulting ambitions. United, who had dreamed of a repeat of their 1999 treble, had to make do with a single shot of Premiership triumph, while Chelsea, chasing an unprecedented quadruple deep into spring, had to settle for a double.'